I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for several months now — while folks were still wearing shorts. You’ll learn why shortly (hah, hah, see what we did there?) But, fortunately, it was a very busy summer at Results C & R, and when it’s busy, we always put our clients’ marketing work above our own.
Earlier this summer, I visited my local “Paper Store,” and while perusing and admiring their clothing items for women, I was extremely surprised to see how short their various short offerings were. I had always assumed The Paper Store catered to women of my age, i.e., women aged 40+ and that their “sweet spot” as far as target audience went was women 45 – 65. These assumptions were likely based on the following:
- What I observed to be the demographic of other shoppers when I visited various Paper Store locations
- The fact that, despite their rewards/coupons program, their prices for various items like clothing, toiletries, and accessories, are higher than what you would pay at a discount store like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, or Marshalls. And, therefore, younger generations (who in many cases would have lower income than the above middle-aged group) might be less likely to shop or make a purchase at a Paper Store.
I decided to take a poll on LinkedIn (which I also shared with my Facebook connections) a few months back to to see what other consumers believed The Paper Store’s primary target audience to be and to inform my planned blog post.
As shown above, poll results indicated that I am not the only one who believes The Paper Store’s primary target audience is women over 40. If the aforementioned is really true, then why didn’t The Paper Store offer longer shorts — shorts that hit you one, two, or three inches above the knee — to its shoppers this summer? Either The Paper Store overlooked their primary target audience’s needs and missed out on an opportunity to sell them a summer staple, or women 45 – 65 really aren’t their primary target audience (or, at least not their primary target audience for shorts). Or, based on our poll results, there’s a big misperception about who their target audience is. Regardless, one or more of the following seems to be at play:
- The Paper Store is hoping to reach and sell to a younger demographic/consumer and is moving in that direction by selling clothes that appeal to younger audiences — and perhaps, they are achieving that goal. Only they know the answer to that.
- The Paper Store isn’t giving enough thought to their primary target audience’s needs and what they will and won’t wear.
- The Paper Store is targeting numerous target audiences at once as part of their overall target market, but only targeting certain products to particular target audiences, as indicated in part by the fact that they offer:
- A very large collection of Vera Bradley and Lilly Pulitzer products which I see most used by middle-aged or older women vs. teens or 20- or 30-something women because of the price associated with those products
- Alex and Ani bracelets or other jewelry items which I’ve seen worn by both younger and middle-aged women, but primarily by women under 30
- In keeping with the above, there is no pecking order when it comes to the various audiences The Paper Store serves; therefore, there is no one true primary target audience – just lots of smaller target audiences to whom various distinct products are targeted
- Being a “gift store,” regardless of the age of the actual primary “purchaser/buyer/consumer,” The Paper Store needs to offer gifts that can be bestowed on anyone of any age — baby/toddler, child, young adult, etc.
The Paper Store’s website has been updated for fall and at the time of this post, homepage images showcase women who appear to be aged 40 at most, and who could possibly be and pass for 30-something and younger. So, I’m left thinking my bulleted thoughts above are accurate. Did/do I and others have their primary target audience wrong or is the retailer just trying to move away from that older audience, and attract younger consumers/shoppers? Or, are they just trying to offer something for everyone?
Products, Services and Marketing Creative Must Meet Needs Of And Resonate With Primary Target Audiences
Ultimately, what I hope you will take from this post is this. Whomever your primary target audience is, if you want to maintain them as customers and grow the amount of business they do with you, you have to offer products and services that make their lives better and easier, and your marketing creative (messaging and images) should reflect those audiences and what they hope to accomplish with your products and services, i.e., their reasons for buying them. If, for whatever reason you want your primary target audience to shift, i.e., you want to cause a new audience with different demographics (this could be based on age, location, gender, income level, and more) to become the primary consumers of your products, you need to make sure that products and services resonate with and provide solutions to problems of that new audience and your marketing creative speaks to that new audience and their needs.
Know What You’re Good At And Who You Serve
We’ve always been of the mindset that “you can’t be all things to all men.” You need to know what you’re good at and understand what the demographics of the audience who will be most interested in your particular products and services, i.e., your primary target audience, will look like. That’s usually a best practice when it comes to deciding what products and services to offer and how you market them. But, in the case of The Paper Store maybe trying to be many things to many people is working for them? Regardless, I won’t be visiting The Paper Store again to purchase shorts. I hope that was The Paper Store’s intention/objective.